Sharon D. Young, PsyD, is a 2007 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

  • Patricia Linn, Ph. D. (Committee Chair)
  • Michelle Naden, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
  • Mary Wieneke, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


homeless clients, burnout, coping; stress

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Publication Date



Stress, secondary trauma, and burnout symptoms are significant problems within the field of human services. Homeless clients present many challenges, frequently are highly traumatized, and often require many services. Psychotherapist working with homeless clients experience negative effects of exposure to the stress and trauma of homeless clients, and as a result must develop strategies for coping in order to continue in the work. This study used a mixed method design to investigate psychotherapists' experience working with homeless clients through Healthcare for the Homeless grantee projects, and their strategies for coping with the stress of their work. A survey, which included the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996), was used to determine the level of burnout. Nine grounded theory interviews were conducted and used to develop a theory of psychotherapist coping. Organizational responses to burnout in their providers, and attempts to help, were also investigated. In order to evaluate when in their career phases providers experienced higher levels of burnout symptoms, survey participants were sorted by job category, number of years working in a chosen field, and number of years working with homeless clients. A 3x2x2 Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was conducted using the three scales of the Maslach Burnout Inventory. No statistically significant differences were found. The qualitative data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. A theory of psychotherapist experience of working with homeless clients was developed. Key theory components included the complex work environment, individual coping, and organizational coping. The systemic nature of burnout was discussed. Suggestions for organizational changes were made including increasing their understanding of the complexities of the work with homeless clients, providing opportunities to reduce isolation, training supervisors, and providing high quality supervision services.